Jerry Walls, What Does the Love of God Profit a Man (If Calvinism is True)?

“D. A. Carson, a prominent Calvinist and scholar, says he is often asked in Calvinist circles, ‘Do you tell the unconverted that God loves them?’  It’s a question, it’s a good question Calvinists have to ask, ’cause it’s not obvious what they should say to that.  His answer: ‘Of course I tell them God loves them.’  Now on the face of it, I like his answer; but listen quickly, here’s what he says: there are three different ways God loves people. First, He loves people by giving them material blessings.  Secondly, He loves them by letting the Gospel go out to them, and thirdly, He loves people with electing love.  Now here’s the point: Carson doesn’t know who are the recipients of electing love; he doesn’t have a clue any more than I do, or you.  Now, can he honestly say with a good conscience, ‘Of course God loves you’, if all he knows is God is giving you material blessings, if all he knows is God lets the Gospel be preached to you even though you can’t possibly respond to it?

Jesus said one time, what is a man profited, if he gains the whole world, and loses his own soul? Let me paraphrase that question: How does the love of God profit a man, even if God gives him the whole world in terms of material blessings, but doesn’t give him the grace he needs to save his eternal soul?  How does the love of God profit him?”

– Walls, J., in The Great Debate: Predestination vs. Free Will (Link)

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9 thoughts on “Jerry Walls, What Does the Love of God Profit a Man (If Calvinism is True)?

  1. lovinglord January 25, 2014 / 3:03 am

    sorry about my poor english.. but anyway, should we call them to repent from this world first? so then, we can say Jesus loves you, and who loves Him, lets come forward! the calling, whoever believe & willing to give their heart & body to be cleanse by the Holy Blood & The Word of Lord Jesus Christ, please come forward!

    how come it become just calling for : i just want to say I Love You.. what a world! i think it’s not so cheap… do you think so? ;)

  2. Arminian March 5, 2014 / 2:37 am

    Agreed. I’m actually drafting a blog post which raises a similar point.

    Kind regards,
    Arminian

  3. Steven Wolf March 5, 2014 / 1:38 am

    I might add to this blog that Calvin wrote in the Institutes (3.2.11) about evanescent grace, i.e. “fake grace”, which would make it all the more hard for a Calvinist to tell people that God loves them. In other words, if someone seems to be living in the faith, it STILL makes sense (in their logic) that a Calvinist cannot tell people God loves them. Even those that appear to be Saints.

  4. Ando March 18, 2014 / 7:48 pm

    I read Jerry Walls book “Why I am not a Calvinist.” It had very sharp points against Calvinism and some interesting points in defense of Arminian belief (his ideas about a “middle knowledge” were worth reading.) In the end, however, he could not reconcile some of the clear predestinarian passages of scripture. In regards to this question, a Calvinist can indeed tell even the most vile reprobate that God loves them. After all he causes the rain to fall on the righteous and the wicked. It goes to far to say that God predestines people to hell. It is better to say he simply allows them to seal the door of perdition from the inside.

    Walls can complain that the Calvinist soteriology is unfair all day long, but he can not erase Romans 9:15 which quotes Exodus: “I will have mercy on whom I have mercy and I will have compassion on whom I will have compassion.” Neither can he erase Romans 9:20 which says: “But who are you, O man, to answer back to God?”

    The very fact that Paul had to answer essentially the same question about the fairness of God in Romans 9 that Walls and others raise shows that he was teaching the view of predestination which the Calvinist accepts as the truthful exegesis of scripture.

  5. Arminian March 21, 2014 / 1:16 am

    Hi Ando,

    “It goes to far to say that God predestines people to hell. It is better to say he simply allows them to seal the door of perdition from the inside.”

    But isn’t this a distinction without a difference? Even if we grant your point, the end result is the same. To illustrate, imagine a standard ‘school-yard pick’ for a sporting team where there are, say for argument’s sake, ten spots available, but fifteen candidates. Even if we grant the point that the ‘chooser’ actively chose ten people but only passively ‘passed by’ the remaining five, the end result is ultimately no different than if the ‘chooser’ had actively rejected the five. Even Calvinist duo Boice and Ryken concede this very point, writing that it “is true of the ultimate effect” that “there is no difference between being passed by and being actively ordained to condemnation” (The Doctrines of Grace, 2002: Crossway, p. 103). The words of Wesley come to mind:

    “Call it therefore by whatever name you please, election, preterition, a passing over, predestination, or reprobation: in the end, it comes to the same thing. The sense of all is plainly this – by virtue of an eternal, unchangeable, irresistible decree of God, one part of mankind are infallibly saved and the rest infallibly damned – it being impossible that any of the former should be damned or that any of the latter should be saved.” (Sermon: Free Grace)

    “The very fact that Paul had to answer essentially the same question about the fairness of God in Romans 9 that Walls and others raise shows that he was teaching the view of predestination which the Calvinist accepts as the truthful exegesis of scripture.”

    Debatable. See the Romans 9 Category for a couple of Arminian interpretations.

  6. wildswanderer May 19, 2014 / 1:12 pm

    “Walls can complain that the Calvinist soteriology is unfair all day long, but he can not erase Romans 9:15 which quotes Exodus: “I will have mercy on whom I have mercy and I will have compassion on whom I will have compassion.” Neither can he erase Romans 9:20 which says: “But who are you, O man, to answer back to God?”

    Walls goes into this in detail in his commentary on Romans 9 youtube video. It’s in his series: “What is wrong with Calvinism?”
    Anyone can pull out a verse here and a verse there and make the Bible say anything they want to.
    You can’t interpret Romans 9 in isolation. It directly relates to the chapters around it and to much of the OT.
    Short answer: Corporate election, not individual election is the theme of Roman’s 9.

  7. James S September 19, 2015 / 1:57 pm

    In reply to Ando’s post of March 18:

    If the Calvinist exegesis of the Bible makes God morally monstrous, there is something wrong either with the exegesis, or with the passages that show God to be a moral monster, or with the God Who is shown to be a moral monster. If this Divine monstrousness is merely apparent and not real, then the injustice may be in the questioner, rather than, or as well as, in the exegete or the passages.

    Somewhat as an aside: to rely on arguments from the fallenness of man is dangerous: If I think that the Pauline God is unjust, that could be a function of my depravity, sinfulness, unregenerateness, and even reprobation; but why should the doctrine, as defended by men not inspired, not be open to the same objection ? Maybe defence of reprobation is a function of indwelling sinfulness in those defend them. The only solution, ISTM, is to eschew reasonings that attribute acceptance or non-acceptance of doctrines to one’s spiritual state, “judicial blindness”, or the operations of God or the devil.

    St Paul is committing a logical fallacy in Rom.9.20, the argumentum ad personam, for it is irrelevant in an intellectual dispute what a man is – all that counts is whether his arguments are good ones, or not. If God is unjust or wicked or unrighteous, no rebuking of those who find the ways of such a God unrighteous or wicked or unjust can change that. The injustice, if injustice there be, is in God, or else in the God whose ways St Paul’s antagonist finds objectionable – not in the antagonist.

    St Paul’s exegesis is problematic in any case – his use of Malachi seems to presuppose that Malachi was treating Jacob and Esau as individuals; is his theological argument affected if his exegesis is flawed ?

    The last point: sorry if this seems like a quibble, but it does not necessarily follow from the objections St Paul seeks to rebut that he is defending a Calvinist position. The same objection as that to which he replies has to be answered by several theologies, of which Calvinism is only one.

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